Ethics - Rights

From CambridgeNotes


  • Rights impose constraints on collective social goals; it gives a person a special advantage – a safe guard so that their right is respected even if the overall social goal is thereby diminished e.g. protects against utilitarian argument that a persons organs may be harvested against their will if it helps more people
  • Rights may be moral or legal – though the two are often linked e.g. Declaration of Human Rights establishes moral rights that can be enforced through legal process involving the Court of Human Rights
  • Note that rights are rarely absolute – this would be almost impossible as rights may conflict each other

Types of rights

  • Claim rights: subject of the right has a claim against another person or people e.g. patient may claim right to certain level of care (often related to "power" e.g. right to give property to another person’)
  • Liberty rights: provides rights of action to the subject e.g. right to seek private healthcare (often related to "immunity" e.g. employer can’t forbid person from belonging to a particular party)

Human Rights Act 1998

  • Act makes rights within European Convention of Human Rights admissible in English law (from 2000)
  • Article 2: Right to live – NHS forced to give chemo
  • Article 3: Prohibition of torture – consent
  • Article 8: Right to respect privacy – confidentiality